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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Public workers fight new Puerto Rico budget law....



June 19 (Reuters) - Some Puerto Rico government workers are threatening to walk off their jobs over a newly enacted budget law, adding to a recent financial whirlwind that is sending yields on the territory's junk bonds to record highs.
The Workers Federation Center, which represents 35 unions, said it selected a date for a strike but would not reveal it in order to surprise the government. It is not clear if the unions will walk off their jobs indefinitely or hold a series of protests.
The two main unions representing workers at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (PRASA) held strike votes on Tuesday, and then staged a protest at Plaza Las Americas, San Juan's major shopping mall.
Meanwhile, the 125 union employees of the Government Development Bank walked off their jobs last Friday and continued to strike on Thursday, GDB spokeswoman Betsy Nazario said.
Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed the law Tuesday to declare a fiscal emergency and attempt to address the territory's credit rating downgrades with a plan that includes finding savings in the public workforce. All three Wall Street rating agencies cut the territory's credit score to junk after the territory suffered years of economic and population declines.
"This government wants to take away rights we have acquired through 72 years of struggle," said Angel Figueroa Jaramillo, the president of the Irrigation and Electrical Workers Union (known as UTIER), the main union at PREPA.
He called on residents to stop paying water and electrical bills to show support. Jaramillo said the law would reduce economic benefits by 35 percent, while eliminating seniority and subcontracting clauses in negotiated contracts.
The new law is a positive for bondholders, said Robert Donahue, a managing director at Municipal Market Advisors.
"What is negative is the ongoing threat of strikes and the potential of unrest in Puerto Rico," he said on Wednesday.
Yields on the territory's $3.5 billion junk bonds issued in March have been setting record highs over the last week, as the law wound through Puerto Rico's legislature. Yields move inversely to price.
On Thursday morning they peaked at 9.651 percent, while the price on the debt fell to a record low of 85.25 cents on the dollar. In comparison, yields on top-rated 30-year municipal bonds were 3.38 percent on Municipal Market Data's benchmark scale.
The law is not bondholders' only concern.
Last week, Puerto Rico's government suggested restructuring a $90 million payment to its public pension in order to help close a $320 million budget gap.
On Wednesday, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded PREPA revenue bonds to BBB- from BBB and placed the rating on CreditWatch with negative implications.
Meanwhile, Doral Financial Corp has sued the territory for a roughly $230 million tax refund. (Reporting by Robin Respaut in New York, Lisa Lambert in Washington and Reuters in San Juan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Vieques solo....



Just finished my first trip to Vieques alone. Not what I expected. This old married guy learned a lesson, paradise is where  your wife is. After 33 years together I think I've kinda gotten used to having her near me.

 So why head to the island alone? Well, it was kind of spur of the moment and I have the ability to leave work easier than Lorrie. The whole point was to look at some property, which I did. Did we buy it? No. Are we trying to, yes.  I'll leave it at that for now.

The trip down was uneventful. Got on island at 3pm, which is really early coming out of Indiana. Burned the last of the commuter book tickets, they were set to expire in July. A change with Cape Air is their departure schedule from Vieques. We are not seeing the early 7:30am flights anymore? Earliest flights now are 8:30am, unless I'm just missing something. We liked those early departures,  as it helped us to get home at a decent hour.  I also noticed how Cape Air is  now following some protocol on the boarding process at SJU. They actually have a set, marked, path for you to follow out onto the tarmac to board your plane.   I heard more than once "make sure you stay in front of the left wing." It's a nice  improvement.

 First few days where spent getting provisions and checking in with a few friends. When I would talk  to Lorrie on the phone she would ask " Have you been to the refuge yet? You have to go to La Plata and work on the gallery, it your job." I just laughed.  Finally   I made my way to Camp Garcia, my destination, La Plata. Even though I was alone, I felt very comfortable driving around the island.  Knowing  your  way all around the island  is a huge benefit and it helps when you can anticipate whats up ahead of you. One thing I didn't anticipate was a barricade before you get to La Chiva, it's after Pata Prieta and before the bridge.  The sign said "Chiva Beach closed for environmental reasons." I later learned that it was for unexploded ordinances and would be closed for 3 to 6 months. No way around that I could see. I turned around and headed  back to Pata Prieta.

I expected the  little parking area to be jamb packed, given the closure, but there where just a handful of cars. I unloaded my gear (that's  another thing about being alone, extra trips to pack gear) and made my way down the little rocky path to the beach. Not having my cabana with me I was searching for some shade. I eyed  a nice spot rather close  to  where a couple were set up.  Walked up to them and ask "you don't mind if I grab a piece of real estate near you. Shade is a rare commodity on this beach." They laughed and told me it was fine.  Another trip up to the car and  I was all ready.  Before settling in for the afternoon,  I walked  over to the couple and ask if they knew anything about the road closure. They told me, actually it was the wife that told me, that the road is not closed and that they were just  by there a day or so ago and went to Chiva. I was perplexed? I ask if they drove over a bridge and what the turnout #'s where they visited. They told me that had went over the bridge and way past turnout #10. They also told me I need to take the dirt road to the right of the Y and it would go all the way around.

Well....sheit.

So, I packed up all my gear and made the two trips back up the hill.  Drove back to the barricades and took the dirt road to the right. While I was driving I began thinking/talking to myself "this cannot circle back around, I know this road", and I was right. It ended up at a concrete ramp. Jeez....

Hot, sweaty and ready to just plop my ass down on a beach and drink a cold one, I headed to Caracas. I expected it to be elbow to elbow, but at this point I didn't care. To my surprise   once again  there were very few people. I found a nice palm, set up my chair and cracked open an cold one. That's a nice feeling, you've arrived. Couple short stints into the water and a beer or two later I'm sitting there thinking "now what?"  Thankfully while strolling along the beach I ran into another guy I knew, also solo. It was Murry. We talked for what seemed like an hour. He told me about the beach closure and that it would be  for 3 to 6 months. It was good to chat with someone I knew on the beach.

Eats on this trip consisted mostly of Beefaroni, beer and ice cream. (Hey, I'm bach'n it.)  But even a carb laden banquet, such as I had designed, can grow tiresome. So   a few times I donned my fancy blue carib shirt and some khaki shorts and headed out for real eats. Best meal of the trip was at El Cayo Blanco. I had tacos. Beef, pork and chicken. Excellent. Had breakfast at Tradewinds a couple mornings. Good, consistent soul food. Dotti was buzzing around as usual and somehow always finds the time to check on each and every person. The lady is amazing. I ate late one night at Duffy's. It was the quietest I've ever experienced  that place. There  was some smooth reggae/jazz playing and it all just blended so well with the vista of the ocean and the Malecon.

This was also the first time I had been on Vieques in late May and I liked it, a lot. The weather was perfect and the water was much warmer than in the winter. Things were greener too. The warmer water brought an unexpected find for me. Portuguese Man of War jelly fish.


That's a picture of one above. I thought it was some plastic toy or something. I saw it caught in a mass of seaweed on shore one day when I was picking up trash. When I tried to pick it out the seaweed I could see it was attached. I just couldn't believe that it was something natural and not man made. The color was so vibrant and it looked just like plastic. Relying on instinct I just left well enough alone. A further walk down the same beach and I saw 5 more. That solidified that fact that this was some sort of animal. When I got back to the house and did some googling I learned that you DON'T mess with these pretty purple devils. From what I read, they can still sting you a day after they've died. YIKES!!

That was about it for the trip.  The same people are sitting outside the green store, drinking beer. The Mambo is still as claustrophobic as ever. Dotti is still as busy as ever. The section of road where 201 and 996 Y still smells like an open sewer (gawd that stinks).   The house with the cows, just past the Mambo, is doing some renovation, so I guess  that's new.  But mostly, not much changes on the island and for that I'm thankful.

Oh...that lady that gave me the bogus direction to La Chiva,  I sat right next to her and her husband out of SJU to Atlanta. (Just what are the chances of that happening?)  I didn't recognize them. She finally she ask me "your Curt, right?". I looked at her and said yes. She told me that she was  on Pata Prieta when I came down with my gear and how sorry she was for giving me those directions. She explained that not long after I had left  they too left for La Chiva. It was only then that they learned that the road was indeed closed. We laughed about it on our way to Atlanta.

:-)